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Pence expected to campaign next week in Oakland County, Grand Rapids

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News
Vice President Mike Pence gestures during an event on the creation of a U. S. Space Force, Aug. 9, 2018, at the Pentagon.

Vice President Mike Pence is set as early as Monday to return to Michigan to campaign for Republican candidates at rallies in Grand Rapids and Oakland County, two sources familiar with the plans confirmed Wednesday.

The specific locations for Pence's visit are undetermined. It would mark the fifth time that the vice president has campaigned in Michigan during the midterm cycle and be his eighth trip to the state since taking office.

The visit comes as the Michigan GOP has expressed confidence that the campaign of Republican Senate contender John James is surging. GOP candidates are locked in tough contests in two Metro Detroit congressional races and elsewhere statewide. 

Pence's trip comes as anticipation builds about whether President Donald Trump, who has been a big supporter of James and GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette, will visit the state before Election Day.

Former President Barack Obama is set to rally Friday in Detroit for Democrats up and down the ticket, ranging from U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing.

A spokeswoman for Pence could not be reached for comment.

"After months of running the inevitability campaign, Stabenow's narrative is shattered as she calls in former President Obama to campaign in Detroit after referring to John James' recent surge in the polls as the perfect storm," said Tori Sachs, campaign manager for James. "As the polls tighten, we welcome high-profile visits to support outsider John James' momentum."

In late August, the former Indiana governor raised money for James at the Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield and criticized Stabenow for trying to block Trump's agenda.

The vice president also attended a GOP "Unity" rally in Grand Rapids a day after the Aug. 7 primary to stump for both James and Schuette.

Pence has mixed campaigning with fundraising. In March, he visited Detroit to raise money for Republican House members, including Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester, and did a June fundraiser for Schuette.

Pence and President Trump both endorsed James and have spent an unusual amount of time backing the African-American businessman from Farmington Hills since he has trailed Stabenow in the polls by double digits.

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